‘On Road’ Winter Weather Training Not Required for Bus Drivers

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- During the harshest conditions of the year, some drivers of city and school buses will be driving a bus in winter weather for the first time.

That's because experience driving in these conditions isn't necessarily a requirement before taking the road.

To operate a city bus, Tony Lafata, COO of Des Moines Area Regional Transit says drivers are required to carry a commercial driver’s license, air brake, and passenger certification.  The training to receive certification can take up to nine weeks of classroom and "on the road" training which is often completed alongside a veteran driver.

There are similar rules in place to operate a school bus, according to Max Christensen, an official with the Iowa Department of Education.

If a driver is hired and trained when the weather is warm and dry, they may not receive any "on the road" training for snow and ice. Having it isn't a requirement to obtain a commercial license.

Buses, at least in the City of Des Moines, have a strong track record for safety this winter.

In the past two months, officials with Des Moines Area Regional Transit say there have only been two accidents where one of its buses has struck another vehicle. This is despite the fact that buses transport nearly 16,000 passengers each day on 31 routes.

According to Lafata, DART bus drivers do receive monthly classroom training where winter weather safety is emphasized.

According to Max Christensen with the Iowa Department of Education, school bus drivers have access to safety manuals which cover driving in winter conditions.

School districts also have the option to offer additional training, more than is required by law, as they see needed.